It’s been just a few months since Howe Sound acquired its newest artificial reef in the form of the HMCS Annapolis. Already, the decommissioned navy destroyer, which was sunk in April, has become home to a variety of species that are quickly turning the ship into an active aquatic ecosystem. Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre’s Howe Sound Research Group has been tracking life on the reef as a partner in the Artificial Reef Society of B.C.’s Annapolis Biodiversity Index Study (ABIS). Over the next five years, we’ll be collaborating with citizen scientists to track species and abundance scores to see how sea life colonizes this new reef.

So far, the results are impressive!

From just four species observed in May, the biodiversity climbed to 29 in November. Our taxonomist Donna Gibbs added 10 new species to her list during a recent 20-minute dive. Here, we highlight a few of the creatures who’ve started calling Annapolis home:

Shiner Perch

Photo: Phil Edge

Photo: Phil Edgell

These fish were among the first to colonize the Annapolis. Recognized by their shimmery, silvery sides, these perch are commonly seen in shallow coastal areas, including eelgrass beds and around piers.




Spot Prawns

Photo: Phil Edge

Photo: Phil Edgell

Best known in B.C. as a sustainable seasonal seafood source, these distinctive shrimp were observed moving onto the Annapolis in September, much to the chagrin of Juvenile Copper Rockfish, which showed up around the same time. Both species are a vital part of B.C.’s coastal ecosystem, but it may take them a little while to figure out how to share the Annapolis, as this video shows them engaged in fierce competition for space.


Pygmy Rock CrabAnnapolis pygmy rock crab 2015 PB250040_1024

These crustaceans are among the latest arrivals to the Annapolis. Observed on dives in November, pygmy crabs are likely lured by food sources such as barnacles and small sea stars. They seem to have found a comfortable home hiding in the ship’s many nooks and crevices, using their rounded carapace to block the opening of their newfound homes.


Barnacles and Mottled Sea StarAnnapolis mottled star 2015 PB250043_1024

Barnacles were also among the first residents to move onto the Annapolis, providing food for sea stars, which showed up this fall.




Annapolis hydroidsWine Glass Hydroids

These other-worldly hydroids were also early arrivals to the Annapolis, observed on dives in July. These tree-like organisms provide food for nudibranchs and crustaceans, as well as a handy hangout spot for spot prawns.



AlgaeAnnapolis red filamentous algae 2015 PB250044_1024

An important food source for herbivores, such as chitons, algae arrived on the reef by November. So far we’ve observed three distinct types: branching red algae, filamentous red algae (pictured) and coralline algae.


You can also help us as we build our catalogue of life on the Annapolis. If you’re a diver, check out our Annapolis web page to find out how to submit your photos and video to the study. And learn more about the hidden gems in Howe Sound during our Divers’ Weekend Jan. 16-17, 2016.

The Howe Sound Research Group is part of the Vancouver Aquarium’s Coastal Ocean Research Institute, an independent, collaborative research body dedicated to collecting, analyzing and communicating research about the health of our coast ecosystems and Canada’s West Coast.

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2 Responses

  1. alan wong

    Hey Donna,
    Just an observation. Had to go to 3 pages to find the place where one uploads photos/videos. Can they make it easier to find it so the reader doesn’t have to read through two pages to find the final link? My 2 cents. Alan

    • Vancouver Aquarium

      Hi Alan — We’ve added a link to the first paragraph (citizen scientists) to make it easier to find the link where one may upload photos. Thanks for your suggestion.


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